Michigan State (11-1, 7-1) vs Iowa (12-0, 8-0)
When: Saturday, December 5th 2015
Where: Lucas Oil Stadium, Indianapolis, IN
Time: 8:15 ET | TV: FOX
The Big Ten Championship and a spot in the College Football Playoffs is on the line Saturday when Michigan State takes on Iowa. The Hawkeyes and Spartans are ranked 4th and 5th respectively and are almost assured of a spot if they win. Iowa has been one of the biggest and quietest surprises this season going 12-0 behind a very balanced team. The Hawkeyes and Spartans tied for the Big Ten in both takeaways (25) and turnover margin (+14) and junior cornerback Desmond King was named the Big Ten’s top defensive back and his eight interceptions is tied for the most in the nation. Iowa’s run defense was particularly strong this season holding opponents to just 110 yards on the ground good for 6th in all of FBS. Offensively, they’re led by conservative quarterback C.J. Beathard, who does exactly what he’s asked of. He has just 14 touchdowns this season, but only 3 interceptions and none in the last five games. He’s also contributed 285 yards and six touchdowns on the ground. Senior running back Jordan Canzeri is only 36 yards away from 1,000 this season despite missing a few games with an ankle injury. His 12 touchdowns leads the team and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry.
Michigan State survived the tougher Big Ten East this season by losing only one game – a 39-38 heartbreaker at Nebraska. The responded with three straight wins after that to close the season including a 17-14 upset at Ohio State without Connor Cook. They finished the season with a 55-16 win over Penn State and Cook’s arm looked very strong. The senior was named Big Ten’s top quarterback finishing with 2,730 yards, 24 touchdowns, and 4 interceptions. Cook needs two touchdown passes to break the single-season mark held by Kirk Cousins (25 in 2011). Cook’s top target was senior Aaron Burbridge, who had 75 receptions for 1,158 yards and seven touchdowns and was selected as the top receiver in the conference. He’s five receptions away from surpassing the school record of 79 shared by Devin Thomas (2007) and B.J. Cunningham (2011). Senior defensive end Shilique Calhoun was named first-team All-Big Ten for the third straight season and finished the season with 8.5 sacks. Like Iowa, Michigan State was very good against the run ranking 15th in the nation and holding Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott to just 33 yards on 12 carries.
Look, Iowa has had a very good season, but they had the luckiest schedule in the conference. They managed to miss Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State, and Ohio State. If they had to play at least two of those teams, I don’t think they would be undefeated. Now they do play one of them and Michigan State is playing as well as anyone in the country. Cook is a true leader and Dantonio is a terrific coach. This will be a great Big Ten type game with Michigan State winning, but Iowa has enough of chip on their shoulders to cover the spread as an undefeated 3.5 point underdog.
Pick: Iowa +3.5